Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Have a Holly Raleigh Christmas CD release party

Today may be a day for ghosts and ghouls, but make no mistake that the holiday season pretty much starts tomorrow.

If you're itching to get into the Christmas spirit, head on down to Amra's on Glenwood South for the official release part for Have a Holly Raleigh Christmas. For the second year, the Raleigh Greater Merchants Association and local bands have teamed up for the album, which benefits the Community Music School.

Many of the bands will be at Amra's from 7-9 p.m. to hang out and perform some of the songs on the album. The album will be available in select area stores Nov. 5. Check here for a list of locations.

Here's the track list:
1. Last Month of the Year — The Capitol City Five
2. Carol of the Bells — PCB Trio
3. Under the Mistletoe — Vaughan Penn
4. Wintercolors — Bill Leslie
5. Big Red Guitar — The Rare Grooves
6. Golden Cradle — Winterbourne
7. Silent Night — Stephen Ineson & Karen Delahunty
8. Breaking Up Christmas — Martin & Johnson
9. Away In a Manger — David Dyer & the Crooked Smile Band
10. Frosty the Snowman's Trip to Kerry — Rob Sharer
11. Christmas Noise — The Feargall Family
12. To Believe — Anthony Neff
13. Holiday — The Magic Babies
14. Beautiful Star of Bethlehem — Nixon, Blevins & Gage

Shout Out Louds heat up Cradle crowd

On a cold Tuesday night in Carrboro, about 250 people warmed up to the Swedish pop stylings of Shout Out Louds.

Nico Vega, from LA, started the show. Unfortunately, I only caught the last song of their set. That one song though was a high energy showstopper. Lead singer Aja strutted around stage in a leotard and tights while Rich, the guitarist, wore a leather vest with no shirt. Oh yeah, they're definitely an LA band.

Two-piece band Johnossi took the stage next. Like Shout Out Louds, Johnossi also hail from Sweden. The band played with just guitar and drums (ala White Stripes and Black Keys) but with a twist. Guitarist/singer John Engelbert played acoustic guitar all night, but processed like an electric guitar. There were echo effects, distortion, the whole gambit. The odd thing is that it worked.

John and drummer Ossi Bonde played high energy pop songs for about 30 minutes, mostly from their self-titled debut album. The set included "Santa Monica Bay," "There's a Lot of Things To Do Before You Die" and "18 Carat Gold," a new song.

While the set was good, the band were a little confused about where they were. John at one point said, "it's good to be in North, um, South Carolina. Right?" The crowd didn't seem to mind the confusion, but it was a bit embarassing considering John also tripped while walking on to the stage at the beginning of the set, falling behind the drums.

Shout Out Louds took the stage and launched into a set that pulled from the band's two albums. After opening with "Time Left For Love," the band played "The Comeback" which seemed to loosen up the crowd. By the fourth song, "Impossible," the crowd was dancing and having a good time.

The rest of the main set included "Shut Your Eyes," "Normandie," "Please Please Please," and the high energy set closer "Tonight I Have To Leave It."

The band left the stage briefly and then returned to play a 3-song encore. The band played "Hard Rain" and was then joined by Ivan from The Rosebuds for "Go Sadness." Ivan sang back-up on the song.

Fellow Rosebud Kelly and sometimes Rosebuds drummer Matt McCaughan joined Shout Out Louds for the show closer "Very Loud." The stage turned into a big party with everybody playing tambourines and various percussion while bouncing around the stage. It was a great end to a stunning set of pop songs from the band.

Shout Out Louds prove that clever Swedish pop didn't die out with Abba. The melodies are smart and catchy and arrangements are sparse but effective. Since the band is on Merge Records, we can expect to see the band back in the Triangle with more frequency. Don't miss them next time.

(all photos by Kevin Norris)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Graham Colton dumbs it down on "Here Right Now"

When someone tours on their album for a year and a half, dates Kelly Clarkson and then all but disappears from the scene for a solid two years, it’s sort of hard to get a handle on what their next release might sound like.

Unfortunately for Graham Colton, his adventures in pop rock have not proven beneficial to his music.

Sure, Colton’s sophomore release Here Right Now, out today, sounds more professional than his previous work. It’s more polished and definitely has that pop sheen thanks to producer John Fields (Rooney, Switchfoot, Semisonic), but is that actually a good thing?

Even more than in the past, Colton’s work is fitting for the One Tree Hill crowd. Lyrics about love and loss read sometimes like a teenager’s journal with rhymes that actually prove distracting to the music itself.

I’m not saying it’s easy to write song lyrics, but at least make it sound like you didn’t do it with a rhyming dictionary by your side.

Strangely, though, some of the album’s most simplistic songs are my favorites. “Always In Love” has a definite hook in its fast dance beat and The Cure-inspired guitar solo.

Colton says the album’s songs are based on relationships he’s had, with Kelly Clarkson and others, so one wonders if it was on purpose that on “If Love Was Enough” Rachel Yamagata’s backing vocals sound stunningly like Clarkson herself.

Colton’s album will no doubt sell more copies than his last, especially with some prime TV or film placements. (Psst, he’s got the free song on iTunes this week, too.) But much like a good cotton candy high, in the end this album will leave you with nothing but a toothache.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Stars shine in Carrboro

It's not often that a show truly blows me away, but Stars' show at Cat's Cradle Friday night beat the odds.

As Norwegian singer-songwriter Magnet (aka Even Johansen) took the stage to open the show, the Cradle was already at about half capacity. Magnet's short set was full of folky, soulful tunes accompanied by samples and a lot of reverb. The solo set sounded very different than the full band arrangements on his albums. The highlight of the set was the song "Lonely No More" from Magnet's latest album, The Simple Life. Stars frontman Torquil Campbell watched a portion of the set from the sound board and really was into the set. It's good to see members of a headlining band truly enjoying their opening acts' set.

Country legend Porter Wagoner dies

Country legend Porter Wagoner, 80, died Sunday night in a hospice in Nashville. He was hospitalized earlier this month and at that time it was disclosed that he had lung cancer.

Wagoner had just released a new album, Wagonmaster, in June. The album was produced by Marty Stuart and who also played on the album and wrote/co-wrote some of the songs. Wagoner and Stuart were scheduled to perform in Raleigh at Meymandi Hall on January 10. As soon as we know if the show will be canceled or if Stuart will still play the show, we'll let you know.

Porter Wagoner was a true country legend who stuck to his guns and never sold out. In his memory, we leave you with a video of Wagoner and the Willis Bros. performing "I'll Fly Away."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Robbers On High Street and Great Northern kick off tour at Local 506

Robbers On High Street and Great Northern have hit the road for a month of shows together that kicked off Tuesday night at Chapel Hill's Local 506.

The Shaky Hands from Portland opened the show. First, singer and guitarist Nick Deiffs gets points for having the guts to wear cutoff jean shorts on stage. The Shaky Hands played a set of clever pop songs with an underlying jam quality to them.

Great Northern took the stage next and played a 40-minute set of dreamy tunes from their album Trading Twilight For Daylight. The band added red lamps to the stage and had fake crows perched atop their gear to help evoke the cinematic mood the band's songs convey. The set was as as grand and vivid as the album. The band was incredibly tight as usual and Solon Bixler and Rachel Stolte's vocals were emotional and intense. Here's the set list.

City of Sleep
Telling Lies (video at bottom)
Just A Dream
A Sun A Sound
Low Is A Height
The Middle
Into the Sun

Robbers On High Street took the stage last and played a 14-song set that excited the small crowd. The band pulled songs from both their albums as well as their EPs. The set included crowd favorites "Married Young" and "Spanish Teeth" as well as some well placed covers. The band played an incredible version of The Kinks' "Dead End Street." The show-stopper came at the end of the set when guitarist and background vocalist Steve Mercado took the lead for Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now."

"This will clear the room," lead singer Benjamin Troken commented before the song. Mercado's stage presence is fairly subdued when he plays guitar, but when he took the lead, he had the swagger of Mick Jagger. At the end of the song, Mercado asked the crowd "Are you still here? Go home." It was a fun ending to a fun night. Here's the set list (it may be a song short).

Kick 'em In the Shins
Married Young
Major Minor
Spanish Teeth (video at bottom)
Crown Victoria
Beneath the Trees
Across You Knee
Dead End Street (The Kinks)
Opal Ann
The Fatalist
Love Underground
Don't Stop Me Now (Queen) (video at bottom)

The only downside to the night was the lazy sound engineering of the club guy. Usually, the sound is pretty good at the 506, but Tuesday night the sound guy was too busy surfing the web to notice that the bands would switch instruments or if their was a bad hiss in the system. The bands overcame and put on a great show, but come on, if you're getting paid to run sound, at least pay attention. That's my rant for today.

(all photos by Kevin Norris)

Robbers On High Street "Spanish Teeth" (clip)

Robbers On High Street "Don't Stop Me Now"

Great Northern "Telling Lies"

Jimmy Eat World meet & greet at Schoolkids

Jimmy Eat World will stop by Schoolkids Records in Raleigh Sunday for a meet and greet at 3 p.m. The band will sign autographs and meet fans before their show later that night at Disco Rodeo. For those who don't know, Schoolkids Records is at 2712 Hillsborough St (next to Kinkos).

Jimmy Eat World are touring in support of their new album, Chase This Light, which was released last week. Tickets are still available for the Disco Rodeo show via Viva Voce will open the show.

Annuals and Manchester Orchestra team up

Annuals' co-headlining tour with the Manchester Orchestra isn't just any old tour. The two groups have created a limited edition 7" that is available only at shows.

The record is a mutual admiration project of sorts; the bands cover each other's songs. Take a listen to these mp3s for a taste.

Annuals covering "Where Have You Been" [MP3]

Manchester Orchestra covering "Brother" [MP3]

The tour will make a stop at Cat's Cradle this Saturday, Oct. 27, with The Never opening the show.

UPDATE: Here's a song from The Never from their Daytrotter session.

The Never - "When You're Gone" [MP3]

Will Hoge rocks out for Joe College

Will Hoge and his band played at Duke University on Saturday as a part of Joe College Day. Hoge was part of a line-up that included Gov't Mule, Grace Potter and others. We only dropped by to catch Will's set.

Hoge played a number of songs from his new album Draw the Curtains including "Sex, Lies & Money," "When I Can Afford To Lose" and "Silver or Gold." The set also included songs from his previous albums including "Pocket Full of Change," "Woman Be Strong," and a new slower version of "King of Grey."

Hoge played to a small yet enthusiastic audience that grew throughout his set. Towards the end of the show, he encouraged the students to get off their blankets and come closer to the stage. "No one's gonna steal your blanket, you're at Duke University," he said. "You pay a lot to go here so you may as well enjoy it."

Will Hoge will play at the Cat's Cradle on November 29 with Hoots & Hellmouth opening. Hoge will also co-headline a show with Jason Isbell at Lincoln Theatre on December 30. Tickets for the Cradle are on sale now via The Lincoln show goes on sale tomorrow, October 26, also via

Here's a short clip of "Sex, Lies & Money"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jay Clifford's triumphant return

Jay Clifford’s performance at Lincoln Theatre last week wasn’t just a show for a lot of people, it was an event.

The show marked Jay’s first tour with a band since Jump, Little Children dissolved in late 2005.

Of course, Jay’s old friends weren’t far away. Jump bassist Jonathan Gray joined the backing band along with members of the Charleston-based group Slow Runner. But we’llget to them later.

Jay’s tour also celebrates the release of his first solo album, Driving Blind. He played literally every song on the album that night, though about halfway through the set some fans began to get antsy to hear old favorites, shouting requests between songs.

“We’ll get to that,” Jay laughed. “We might even take a request or two.”

“Oh, shit,” muttered Jonny, who hadn’t played many of the older songs live in some time. “I don’t do well on pop quizzes.”

Of course they sidestepped taking requests, but Jay and Jonny did oblige the crowd by playing a trio of songs without the backing band, “No God, No Country,” a song by Rosebud, a side project the two were in, and Jump songs “Where She Lies” and “Cathedrals.”

In a way, playing older songs only showed how much Jay has changed in his songwriting, from a song as old as “Where She Lies” to the new album material, which is much moodier and even symphonic while still retaining the stunning melodies and other qualities that have made fans (like me) stick around for the long haul.

Opening band Slow Runner has its own new album out. Shiv! is a wonderful collection of dreamy pop rock songs that deserves the group and songwriter Michael Flynn far more recognition than they currently receive.

The night as a whole was just one of great songwriters and performers that, for my tastes, doesn’t happen often enough.

(all photos by Kevin Norris)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Great Northern releases new video

Just in time to kick off a new tour in our backyard, Great Northern has released its latest video for “Low is a Height.”

Great Northern will kick off their tour TONIGHT with Robbers on High Street at Local 506. Tickets are only $10, so come check it out!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Get your zzz's while you can

Looking at the calendar for this week, I get the feeling I won't be getting a lot of sleep. But that's OK because there's a great run of shows coming through the area in the next six days.

Robbers on High Street and Great Northern are playing Local 506 Tuesday, The Broken West will be there Thursday, Stars and Magnet are playing Cat's Cradle on Friday (while Guster and Avett Brothers are over on NCSU's campus — and trust me that was a tough call), and finally, Annuals, The Never and Manchester Orchestra will play Cat's Cradle Saturday while Matt Pond PA is down the road at Local 506 (still haven't made up my mind on that one).

Seriously. That's a lot of great shows in a short period of time. So join me by getting out of the house this week and enjoying some great music and the magnificent fall weather that only seems to appear once the sun has set!

So I've told you my plans — what show are you going to this week?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Great bands overcome weird concert atmosphere

Nothing like going to a rock show with upbeat, dancey music and everyone’s sitting on the floor.

Uh, what? Sounds weird, but that’s exactly what happened last Saturday at Duke Coffeehouse.

Maybe the sofa, chairs and floor-sitting was appropriate for opening band The Tourist who played laid back, melodic pop songs, but once Office took the stage it just felt plain wrong.

But on to the actual music.

Office played songs off their album A Night at the Ritz, which was recently released on James Iha’s own label, Scratchie Records.

I picked up their album after the show and would highly recommend it. Songs like “Oh My,” “Q&A” and “The Ritz” are perfect for the drive home after work on a particularly long day when you need a bit of a pick-me-up.

Headlining the evening was Earlimart and finally, the a large group of people stood near the stage.

The band played songs off their own new album, Mentor Tormentor, which came out in August. They weren’t quite as upbeat as Office, maybe a little moodier, but with beautifully constructed songs and melodies.

[photos by Kevin Norris]

Office — “Oh My”

Earlimart — “Gonna Break Into Your Heart”

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Aiken to star on Broadway

Raleigh lost one of its shining stars to the bright lights of Broadway today.

Clay Aiken will make his Broadway debut in Monty Python's Spamalot as Sir Robin from January 18 to May 4, 2008.

Because, you know, New York doesn't have enough fanny pack-toting tourists already.

The character of Sir Robin, who was originally played by David Hyde Pierce, is described as "a cowardly knight well versed in the world of musical theatre."

Well, I guess that sounds about right.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hoge mellows out but keeps the energy on "Draw the Curtains"

I still remember my first time seeing Nashvillian Will Hoge live. Probably because it was the only time I have seen him. The first three or four songs melted into each other like a well crafted medley, the energy was high throughout the set and I told myself I was looking at one of those musicians who wanted to give the audience a show worth every penny they paid to enter the Soapbox in Wilmington that night.

I was hooked, if on nothing else but the energy. I’m a sucker for a fun show, an intense show — even if the songs are mediocre. But they aren't. The songs were good, well crafted rock ‘n’ roll songs that seemed almost reminiscent of Waylon Jennings with a touch of Led Zeppelin.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Leslie brings rock 'n' roll to Raleigh

I can't seem to catch a full Leslie show in Raleigh. Last time they were at Slim's in Raleigh I had to leave early. This time I got there late, but the Charleston, SC three-piece still put on a hell of a show.

Leslie has to be one of the most intense bands on the scene right now. They play every song like it's the last they'll ever play. Singer/guitarist Sadler Vaden's stage presence combines Pete Townshend windmills, knee drops and walking off the stage at random getting right in audience members' faces.

During the last half of the set Thursday night, the band played "Back Door," "You're A Liar," "Guns Loaded," and "You Can't Take My Silver." One song that really got the crowd excited was a cover of Willie Dixon's "You Shook Me." During the song, one audience member said "for some reason I feel like drinking whiskey right now." It was a spot on version of the song that would have made Willie and Zeppelin proud.

The band hadn't planned to play an encore, but came back to play one more song for the crowd even though Sadler had a broken guitar string and drummer Jonathan Carmen had a broken kick drum pedal. Towards the end of the song, Sadler and bassist Jason Fox simultaneously walked off stage and continued to play in the crowd. Jason even hopped up on a bar stool and managed to maintain his balance to play for about thirty seconds. It was a sight to see.

The band left no one in the crowd unimpressed Thursday night. Leslie will definitely be a band to watch in the next year. Leslie's next North Carolina show is in Jacksonville on Oct. 24 at Hooligan's Music Hall with 12 Stones and Adema. Don't worry, they don't sound like either of those bands. They play old school rock 'n' roll that you need to check out.

Friday, October 05, 2007

HopeFest raises money, voices for Africa

I swear I’m not being disingenuous when I say I’ve never quite enjoyed an outdoor festival as much as I did HopeFest last weekend.

The annual event was held Sunday afternoon at Booth Amphitheatre in Cary.

HopeFest, in its third year, raises money for Beacon of Hope, a group based out of Nairobi, Kenya, that helps women and girls affected by AIDS learn skills that allow them to make money and support themselves and their families.

Last year’s HopeFest raised $25,000, enough for Beacon of Hope to build a new health clinic. I’m not sure how much this year’s festival raised, but one of the organizers told me that before gates even opened for the day, they had about $12,000 to send over to Beacon.

But of course, HopeFest isn’t just about the cause. Okay, well it is, but there’s some great music, too.

Mavuno, a group from Kenya, performed a lively set early in the evening that had most of the crowd on their feet and dancing. Local native turned Nashvillian Thad Cockrell followed, playing songs off his brand new EP, To Be Loved.

This year’s concert was headlined by Glen Phillips, someone everyone’s heard of though his past work with Toad the Wet Sprocket. Phillips played some of his bigger songs from that band (“All I Want,” “Walk on the Ocean”) but he also played some of his more recent material, including two songs (“Windmills,” “Come a Time”) off an album he recorded as the Mutual Admiration Society with Nickel Creek and two freshly-penned songs Phillips said will appear on a forthcoming album.

The crowd was small but mighty, and Phillips treated the faithful by coming out for a special encore. Standing on the steps of the stage Phillips played handful of songs as the crowd stood close and sang along. Undoubtedly the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Annuals make second video

It's been a while since we've mentioned Annuals, but don't think the band hasn't been busy. They've played tons of shows at South By Southwest, released their album Be He Me in the UK and continued to tour rigorously.

Annuals is back with the follow-up to the video for "Brother" (check it out here). Their new video is for their anthem "Carry Around" (which they performed on Late Night with Conan earlier this year). The fun, low budget video that features the band playing a game that combines croquet, miniature golf and Mouse Trap. You just have to see it for yourself.

Annuals have a few shows scheduled in Iceland and Spain before coming back to the states to kick off a tour with Manchester Orchestra and The Never. The tour will begin in Atlanta but their second stop is at the Cat's Cradle. The Cradle show is on Saturday, October 27. Doors will open at 7:30pm and the show will start at 8:30pm. Tickets are on sale via

Annuals - Carry Around

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

of Montreal at Cat's Cradle

If you’ve been reading this blog for any considerable amount of time, you know that I’m not shy regarding my personal affections. Like most people, there is a small contingent of bands I will be, for the most part, incredibly loyal to.

Well, go ahead and add of Montreal to that list.

The group played Cat’s Cradle last Friday to a sold out crowd.

The group mostly played songs off their two most recent albums, “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” and “The Sunlandic Twins,” but they also treated fans to a few songs off their forthcoming album, which frontman Kevin Barnes said will be titled “Skeletal Lamping.” (See the bottom of this post for videos of two new songs they played Friday.)

Friday’s performance was the first show for the group’s new bassist, who name I sadly did not catch. Anyone out there care to fill in the blank?

Otherwise, the show was everything I’d expect from of Montreal, a tight and energetic performance, wild costumes, a wonderfully cult-like audience with, of course, a dash of gender ambiguity.

Anyone who has not seen this group yet, I urge you to check them out the next time they swing through town. It’s an experience I haven’t seen duplicated by any other band out there.

Monday, October 01, 2007

VHS or Beta gets Chapel Hill dancing

What does it take to get people moving their feet in the Triangle? Apparently, VHS or Beta have the magic touch.

The Louisville-based band stopped by Local 506 Thursday night in support of their new album, Bring On the Comets. The set included "Burning It All Down," "She Says" and "Love In My Pocket" from the album. The catchy new single "Can't Believe A Single Word" really got the crowd pumped, but it was the old songs that the crowd really loved. "Night On Fire" and "Alive" both received enthusiastic cheers during their intros.

The only downside to VHS or Beta's show was the short set time. They played about 30 minutes and then a 10 minute encore. Not much of a headline set, but the band made their 40 minutes count. They didn't stop to talk too much in-between songs. They just kept the music pumping.

Chicago-based band Walter Meego was one of two openers at the show. The three-piece band bounded around and played 80's inspired dance tunes for the appreciative crowd. The band used loops and beats combined with keyboards, an old Korg synth and a guitar. Their appreciation of old school beats and their intense live show will make the guys a hit on their upcoming tour of the UK and Spain.

Durham based band Ex-Members started the show. Quirky pop songs make them a band to watch on the local scene. Ex-Members have two local shows coming up. They'll be at Nightlight in Chapel Hill on October 6 and at Duke Coffeehouse on October 11.

New Radiohead album out in ten days

Radiohead have annouced via their website that their new album is finished and will be released digitally in ten days. The album is called In Rainbows and will be exclusively available via You can pre-order the album now.

Buyers have two options. One is the album download only which will be available on October 10. The second option, is being called the "discbox." The set will include the album download on October 10 plus the album on CD and two 12-inch heavyweight vinyl records. The "discbox" will also include a second CD which will contain more new songs along with an enhanced feature that will have photos and artwork. It also includes artwork and a lyric book. All of the "discbox" items will be encased in a hardback book and slipcase. All of the "discbox" items will ship on or before December 3.

The "discbox" set will be £40.00 which is approximately $81.00. It's a little steep, but you get tons of cool stuff. Here's the crazy part. How much is the download only you ask? You get to name your own price. No, you really get to name your own price. It's quite ballsy of Radiohead. I'm not sure if there is a minimum. Theoretically, you could pay £.01 or quite possibly nothing.

Here's the album tracklist for the album:

Here's the tracklist for the bonus CD that is included with the "discbox":
MK 1
MK 2

For those who don't know, Radiohead's contract ran out with their last album, Hail to the Thief. The release of In Rainbows is like a big middle finger to the record industry. Without the label red tape, they are album to release the album as soon as it's done, on their own. Radiohead has been set free and are setting out to break all the rules.

So what do you think, is this the wave of the future?